Generation Z likely to avoid advertising, use ad blockers and skip content: Study

Lucy Handley, special to CNBC
Tom Odulate | Getty Images

Younger consumers are likely to be one of the hardest groups to market to, with shorter attention spans and a higher propensity to avoid advertising, according to a new report.

Generation Z – or those aged 16 to 19 – demand humorous commercials, like to co-create with brands and want to watch videos that are less than 10 seconds long, according to Kantar Millward Brown's AdReaction: Engaging Gen X, Y and Z, study, which interviewed nearly 24,000 people aged 16 to 49 in 39 countries.

Most challenging of all, they are most likely to physically avoid ads, with 69 percent doing so, versus a global figure of 50 percent.

Tom Odulate | Getty Images

To reach them, brands would do best to use humor, rather than celebrities, in their advertising. Gen Z is three times more likely to be receptive to funny advertising, and they also want music and a good story to feature.

When it comes to blocking digital advertising, Gen Z is "more adept" at downloading ad blocking software in the U.S., according to the report. Ad blocking is an increasing problem for brands, with 309 million people doing so on the mobile web alone, according to statistics from PageFair released in May 2016.

These teenagers are also more likely to avoid online advertising, and are less tolerant of it than older generations, as they skip ads three seconds earlier than Gen X (aged 35 to 49). Sixty-nine percent of Gen Z respondents claim they like ads they can skip, compared to 56 percent of Gen X.

The report suggests that better creativity may help to avoid this. "Buying 'non-skippable' content is not a recommended option. It's likely to result in a backlash, both to the individual advertiser and ultimately to the entire industry when this frustration results in more people installing ad blocking software. Given this, the only real way forward is for brands to create content that will stop Gen Z in their tracks."

This generation is highly reliant on their mobile phones, and "the digital world is all they have ever known," the report suggests. The wide variety of media channels are making it harder for brands to reach them, and as marketers are likely to be older than their Gen Z target audience they are facing new challenges.

"People who work in the marketing industry are tech-savvy, but experts from earlier generations are now faced with this new group of consumers who are more technologically advanced."

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